Monday, September 29, 2008

Olmert Says Israel Should Pull Out of West Bank.

Well, well, well, as he steps out of office Olmert has said things that he has never said before, indeed, he went further than any Israeli Prime Minster has ever gone in the past.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview published on Monday that Israel must withdraw from nearly all the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem to attain peace with the Palestinians and that any occupied land it held onto would have to be exchanged for the same quantity of Israeli territory.

He also dismissed as “megalomania” any thought that Israel would or should attack Iran on its own to stop it from developing nuclear weapons, saying the international community and not Israel alone was charged with handling the issue.

In an unusually frank and soul-searching interview granted after he resigned to fight corruption charges — he remains interim prime minister until a new government is sworn in — Mr. Olmert discarded longstanding Israeli defense doctrine and called for radical new thinking in words that are sure to stir controversy as his expected successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, tries to build a coalition.

“What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me,” Mr. Olmert told Yediot Aharonot newspaper in the interview to mark the Jewish new year that runs from Monday night till Wednesday night. “The time has come to say these things.”
It actually pains me to think that this guy was elected to do that very thing and his idiotic decision to invade Lebanon after the kidnap of Israeli soldiers, and his country's consequent defeat in that war, left him politically unable to pursue the very thing he was elected to do.

And I put some of the blame for that at the door of Bush and Cheney who encouraged him every inch of the way in a war against Hizbullah that they were always destined to lose.

I have lamented many times that Olmert didn't simply engage in a prisoner swap, which we all thought he would be forced to do in the end anyway, but rather than go down that route Olmert decided on a war which killed thousands and failed in it's objective.

But now, at the end of his career, he is rejecting the right wing nonsense which he embraced for most of it.

He said traditional Israeli defense strategists had learned nothing from past experiences and seemed stuck in the considerations of the 1948 Independence War.

“With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop,” he said. “All these things are worthless.”

He added, “Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”

Over the last year, Mr. Olmert has publicly castigated himself for his earlier right-wing views and he did so again in this interview. On Jerusalem, for example, he said, “I am the first who wanted to enforce Israeli sovereignty on the entire city. I admit it. I am not trying to justify retroactively what I did for 35 years. For a large portion of these years, I was unwilling to look at reality in all its depth.”

“A decision has to be made,” he said. “This decision is difficult, terrible, a decision that contradicts our natural instincts, our innermost desires, our collective memories, the prayers of the Jewish people for 2,000 years.”
And then he turned to the Palestinian crisis and spoke more sense than he has ever previously spoken.
“We face the need to decide but are not willing to tell ourselves, yes, this is what we have to do. We have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, the meaning of which is that in practice we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories. We will leave a percentage of these territories in our hands, but will have to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace.”

Elsewhere in the interview, when discussing a land swap with the Palestinians, he said the exchange would have to be “more or less one to one.”

I'm enough of a cynic to find it highly suspicious that he says all this at the very moment that he is walking out the door. If only I hadn't been charged with corruption you might all be living in peace appears to be the subtext, but it is nevertheless important that he has said.

Should Tzipi Livni take over and Barack Obama assume the American presidency, there is every chance that great progress could be made towards solving this intractable problem.

The solution, as many of us on the left have always said, lies in following UN Res 242. Now, at last and too late, even Olmert has said it.

But, we should be thankful that he has.


There is a very interesting interview with Robert Fisk over at TruthDig. Unfortunately, he doesn't agree with me that the election of Obama will make any difference. Click on the links to watch.

Part 1.

Part 2.

His best quote is: "The Middle East is not a complex place. What people want is justice. If we dealt with justice in the Middle East, instead of trying to flog them our human rights packages, al Qaeda would cease to exist."

Click title for full article.


theBhc said...


Sorry, I don't agree with you either. When Obama dashed off to AIPAC immediately after Clinton dropped out, it was obvious he would not be changing US position.

A new direction is going to have to come from within Israel. American politicians do not have the guts to stand up to the Israel lobby. I wish they did, but they don't.

Kel said...


I was naive enough to tell myself that he had to do that in order to be elected and that his position would change one he was elected.

I constantly mug myself by thinking that there will be a US politician somewhere who sees the importance of this.

And the reaction to Olmert's comments from within Israel gives me no faith that change will come from there any time soon.

theBhc said...

Yeah, it was typical Israeli establishment drool. The US is the same. Look at the way they treat Carter over here. In fact, I think critics are treated worse in the US than in Israel. At least the Israelis don't stoop to the kind childish name-calling like you see happen here.

Kel said...

The treatment meted out to Carter after his book publication was typical of the way that this debate is constantly stifled by the charge of anti-Semitism.

As you say, in Israel they ate least avoid the name calling, although the charge there - certainly from the reaction I read to Olmert's comments - is that you are trying to destroy the country.

It seems rational discussion has been ruled as somehow inadmissible.